Me: This is my first time really celebrating and honoring Juneteenth.
Spirit Self: Nice! Finally! Way to go! Thanks, 2020!
Shadow Self: Excuse me? Juneteenth is a questionable thing to celebrate, because it’s another demonstration of the continuing delay in the end of slavery.
Me: You’re right – it’s not the final satisfying iteration of the best that the world could offer.
Shadow Self: And you’re stepping into Black Lives Matter…only now? After how many state-sponsored murders?!
Me: You’re right – I’m a new-ish addition to the marathon team.
Shadow Self: Wait…Who the hell are you to participate!? You’re not even Black.
Me: You’re right – I am biracial (Filipino & Polish-ish), identify as brown-skinned, and grew up in a white suburb with white culture and plenty of white privilege…And perhaps even because I’m not Black, it’s even more important that I’m claiming this. I have a responsibility to take it up, even if I don’t do it perfectly. My Black friends are tired, and I am one of the many answering the call to demand that society start to demonstrate that their lives really do matter.
Shadow Self: So what do you care about? Are you here to benefit from the trending or attention?
Me: I mean, yes, MY attention is captured, but no, that’s not the ultimate reason that I’m here. This matters to me. Black Lives Matter, Racial Equality, Justice, becoming an ally and an accomplice and a good ancestor – I care about this. I know it’s not up to me ALONE. But if this matters to me, don’t I need to do something? I’ve done more learning about Black history as it relates to the United States in the last few weeks than ever in my life – even when I was doing and teaching Black dances. I bring up race on purpose in mixed meetings that are mostly white. I am working out my personal and partnered accountability to an antiracism plan with my white spouse. I don’t think I can solve this, but I’m in action.
Shadow Self: So what? This isn’t about you. You’re late to the conversation. Buckle down, strap up, stay quiet, keep doing your work, and please don’t make it a thing.
Me: You’re right – in one sense, it really ISN’T about me. But it DOES affect me. When Black and Brown people are still treated as less than human, by a system that I pay taxes to, that diminishes me. I know the world and the stories of its people and its circumstances are expansive beyond what I think my human brain can fully grok. I’ll keep reading, listening, watching, digesting, LEARNING. Let my eyes and my heart be opened. Let my words be informed by my new awareness. Let my actions then be informed by my words. And I’ll remember that this isn’t about me; it is beyond me. It is about me finally recognizing the pain and humanity of people who I have other-ed.
And in another way, it totally IS about me. Because “this” [gestures wildly at a vision of changing the world] can’t happen WITHOUT me. It can’t happen unless I am willing to look inside and get disrupted, get uncomfortable, and grow. ME.
Shadow Self: So self-important.
Me: You’re right – stepping away from that ego-view is still something I clearly wrestle with.
Shadow Self: And in yet another sense…the world can and will change without you OR your permission. So if you’re not ready to do inner work now, you could go ahead and check out, be a late adopter.
Me: There’s always a consequence, an effect, for choosing or not choosing, and when. I’m pretty late to the game in a lot of ways, but at least I don’t want to be any later.
Spirit Self: It’s not ALL about you. But it necessarily INCLUDES you. You are contributing energy and intention, whether consciously or unconsciously. What do you intend?
Shadow Self: What does it matter what you intend if you’re going to keep causing harm anyway? Good intentions don’t excuse poor outcomes.
Spirit Self: Focus on the opportunity, now. So what are you doing, anyway? Even here, and now, today? And to what end?
Me: I’m putting something that matters deeply to me into words, and sharing it purposefully and publicly with people. I’m opening myself to listen. I’m consuming ad sharing art that people are making about it (Sideshow Theater hosting a Liberation Fundraiser screening of Tilikum, benefiting #LetUsBreathe Collective; Pole Sport Organization and Black Girls Pole #AmplifyMelanatedVoices pole showcase benefiting Color Of Change) and donating to the causes. I’m reading a Langston Hughes poem to my chosen family and having a systems discussion and brainstorm about abolishing the police. I’m pondering and sharing Emmanuel Acho’s Youtube videos. I’m going to my front porch to wave on the parade of drivers on their way to a rally downtown. I’m celebrating Juneteenth on purpose, with more awareness than ever, and committing to the work in a new way.
Social/Emotional Intelligence Cue
When someone says “this isn’t about you” (or anything that piques your white fragility), look and listen for ways you can expand your awareness to include more of your surroundings. Ask questions: what is it about, through their eyes? Listen with the intent to understand. Someone is seeing something that they don’t think you see. Try! Take responsibility for the impact of your ignorance. Maybe you can catch the concept in the moment, maybe you need more scaffolding later with another ally or with your own education efforts. It may not be about ONLY you, but it is an opportunity to step up. And what you do/don’t do, say/don’t say, choose/don’t choose… it ALL makes a difference.
You have a part to play. In what role have you historically been cast? What role would you choose for yourself now? How does that person learn, grow, react, transform? What vision do you hold for yourself on this growing edge of the world?
Play your part. Do your part. Be/become your part.
The next time you get reminded that “it’s not about you,” consider this: It’s not completely about you – and yet, I hope you find yourself completely invited – drawn, compelled, demanded – to join the dance in a responsible and constructive way. Pay attention to your reactions. Don’t pass this off to someone else. Because your part does matter. Your part is about you, and also about those who you will influence.